Why Is My Breast Milk Pink? Lactation Consultants Explain Why It Takes On A New Hue

By
Share
Ad failed to load

When I gave birth to my daughter, I knew one thing about breastfeeding — I wanted to try it. Literally, that was it. I had no idea how often to feed the baby, how to pump, how to store milk, nothing. Luckily, breastfeeding came really easy to both of us, so I began adding in a few pumping sessions just to have milk on hand for bottles and grandparents. But imagine my surprise that first pumping sesh at five days postpartum when I saw pink milk come out of my nipples. Why is my breast milk pink and why didn't anyone tell me my breasts could do this trick?

"Strawberry milk," my lactation consultant told me, laughing. Well, that sounds nice enough. Like a Beatrix Potter-themed snack. But then she continued, "That's what we call it when your milk gets a little tinged with blood. It's no biggie." And then I found out she also calls it "rusty pipe syndrome" which is 100 percent more horrifying. And then I fainted.

OK, I didn't faint. But I was a little skeeved out knowing that my breast milk had been colored pink by my own blood. And I was supposed to feed this to my vampire baby? In the days following my daughter's birth, blood and breastfeeding had been kind of synonymous. While breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, according to Kelly Mom, some things can cause your nipples to crack or bleed and also just feel sore in those early days of breastfeeding. A poor latch can really do a number on your nipples and sometimes, that can show up in your breast milk.

Ad failed to load
Giphy

But is that pink "strawberry milk" or "rusty pipe" milk safe to give your baby? Absolutely. "It’s totally safe to feed baby," International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and owner of Tiny Tummies Lactation Services Tori Sproat tells Romper. She explains that while it's super scary to see, there's usually a good reason why it's happening.

"There are several reasons for the bleeding, typically something small," she says, using an example of a small cut on your skin. If you take even one drop of blood and put it in water, it's bound to look worse than it is, and blood in breast milk is a similar concept. The Infant Risk Center noted the same thing on its website — a tiny amount of blood is fine to ingest and even the smallest droplet can make your milk take on a much pinker hue than you would think.

Ad failed to load

"So causes can be tiny tears from high suction, poor fitting flanges from pumping, or even a shallow latch or tongue tie," Sproat explains Larger, obvious cuts can be the cause too, but she says you'll absolutely notice something like that. Sproat also mentions that there is a worst case scenario of breast cancer, but "strawberry milk" can also be attributed to that phenomenon lactation consultants call "rusty pipe syndrome." A 2013 article in Breastfeeding Review defines "rusty pipe syndrome" as "presence of blood in the breast milk" that renders the milk a rusty or brownish color. Apparently this can be spontaneous and can, unfortunately, "act as a psychological barrier to successful breastfeeding."

Giphy

But honestly, Sproat says this isn't really something to worry about unless it's happening all the time. She recommends documenting the blood in your breast milk when it happens and if you see it happening more than a few times, you'll want to get it checked out. I can remember calling my own pediatrician in a panic when my baby spit up around 4 days old and her spit-up was basically bloody breast milk. "Oh, that's probably just from your nipples being sore as you get used to breastfeeding," they said. And then I panicked because my God, what horrible thing was I feeding my baby?

Ad failed to load

Turns out, nothing — I wasn't feeding anything horrible to my baby. Sproat says feeding your baby milk tinged with blood is safe so long as "you don't have a disease passed via blood" like hepatitis or HIV. "Breast milk is full of living cells, so the teeny blood won't harm baby," she says.

In short, as long as your milk doesn't look like a strawberry milkshake with every pumping session, it's most likely something small causing the pink hue. You can feed it to your baby, you can store it, and you can freeze it. Just be sure to let your lactation consultant know if it happens frequently so they can figure out exactly why your nipples seem to be bleeding so much. In the meantime, you can just pretend like you're some kind of soda jerk making malts in a 1950s diner.

Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.

Ad failed to load
Ad failed to load
Must Reads

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}